Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) is one of the most known Impressionists painters. His precubist style inspired one among many artists. His worldwide fame is linked with Picasso, apples and still lifes. But how well do you know Cézanne ?
1/ Cezanne’s late recognition
Cezanne waited a long time for his talent to be recognized. He was long ignored up to his 56 years old in 1895 when an exhibition was organised by Ambroise Vollard, a young art dealer.
The critiques quoted his work as the “painting of a madman, sick of delirium tremens”
Nowadays, Cezanne is critically acclaimed and his pictural works are among the most expensive worldwide.
2/ Cezanne, the portraitist
He is mostly famous for his apples life stills and Sainte-Victoire mountain (we stronly recommend a hike there) but Cezanne also produced about 200 portraits on a life work of about 1000 paintings. He worked these portraits with the same commitment as the life stills.
The artist has also done 26 self portraits et 24 portraits of his wife Hortense.
3/ Cezanne and the apples
The favourite genre of Cézanne was life stills and his favourite theme was apples. Apples are figured in about 70 paintings. This recurring theme may symbolize friendship and a childhood story that happened to Cezanne. The little fought in school courtyard to protect his friend Emile Zola. The day after, Emile thanked him by giving him a present : a basket full of apples.
4/ Cezanne, the self-taught genius artist
Cezanne learned his trade on the job by studying classic paintings in museums: he actually never got trained in painting at any academy. Although he studied drawing, he was rejected from fine art school then from the Paris official art fair. He worked his own technique and choosed inspiring models.
5/ Cezanne abandonned law school
Aix-en-Provence is a law city even today with many students dreaming to become lawyer or judge This was clearly not Cezanne’s dream.
In 1858, Cezanne only spent a few weeks studying law because of his father who wanted a law career for him. In 1858, he wrote a poem to his friend Zola where he expressed how much he hated law school:
« Alas, I took the law tortuous route.
– I took, this is not the word, I’ve been forced !
The law, the horrible law study of entangled detours
made for 3 years my life a misery ! »
6/ Cezanne and Zola, a friendship broken by a book?
Cezanne breaks from his childhood friend Zola in 1886. Although very close, the two friends will never see each other anymore. Why?
The urban legend says that Cezanne recognized himself as the cursed and bitter painter character Claude Lantier in “The Masterpiece”, the first novel of Zola.
Actually, Cezanne was not offended by the novel but soon Zola back in Paris started lowering and denigrating his childhood friend. Zola’s own taste was more and more a bourgeois and he preferred Manet’s art (Cezanne hated Manet as a person). Cezanne also stayed the boorish fellow from a small town.
7/ 1886, the pivot year for Cezanne
In addition to the break-up from Zola, 1886 changed Cezanne personnel life as well. He got married in april 1886, with Hortense Fiquet, his concubine and model for 16 years. His father died in october leaving to Cezanne a large fortune ensuring his financial independance.
8/ Paul Cezanne’s regrets
In 1906, when a bust of Émile Zola, who died 4 years earlier, was inaugurated, Paul Cézanne showed his regrets about this broken friendship. He hadn’t had seen the writer for 20 years but started crying in front of the statue and in the middle of the crowd.
9/ Cezanne, killed by his beloved Saint-Victory Mountain
On the 15th of octobre 1906, he installed his easel and canvass in front of the mountain that he never stopped figuring in his work.
A big storm burst out but the painter continued stubbornly his work : drenched and shivering of fever after coming back to his workshop, he died on week later of pleuresia. Bedded, he was waking up at times to add a touche to an aquarelle installed next to his bed.
10/ Cezanne, father of the modern art
After his death, in 1907, the Automn art fair organized a retrospective of Cezanne’s work. As in 1895, this exhibition significantly influenced other young painters , making Cezanne a pioneer of modern art, the fauves (les Fauves : French for “the wild beasts”, the cubists or abstracts painters and of course impressionists.
Picasso said once that « Cezanne was our father to us all [to the modern artists] »